Use science and technology parks and innovation networks

Cross-border science and technology parks and incubators benefit from an international scale

Table 3.11. Cross-border science, technology parks and incubators: Benefits and barriers

Benefits and barriers



  • - facilities can be more profitable with a larger pool of possible tenants
  • - avoids duplication of investments across the border
  • - facilitating knowledge sharing, spillovers and networking across jurisdictions Barriers:
  • - competition for location and firm attraction
  • - administrative rules for foreign firms locating in park on other side of the border
  • - Joint incubator work in Helsinki-Tallinn; Technopolis park established in Estonia and Finland
  • - Chemelot business park and Avantis technology park in the TTR-ELAt

Different characteristics could make a particular science and technology or industrial park cross-border. It could be funded by cross-border public or private authorities. The park may be physically accessible by a broad range of firms and organisations located in different jurisdictions, or the staff of an S&T park or an incubator may be a representative of the cross-border area. Often these facilities have strong ties with academic and research institutions. Chemelot Business Park in the Limburg Province of the Netherlands is one example (Box 3.12). In another cross-border region, a technology park provider has developed its own commercial interests throughout the cross-border area. The Technopolis majority-owned Ulemiste City Technology Park, located next to the Tallinn Airport, provides office space and services to companies. As customers of Technopolis Ulemiste, companies are a part of the Technopolis network that spans from Tallinn and St. Petersburg to eight cities in Finland.

Box 3.12. Chemelot Business Park: A cross-border asset for the Netherlands and Germany

In the TTR-ELAt, the Chemelot Business Park is a cross-border industrial park developed in co-operation with Maastricht University and other institutes for higher education, including the German RWTH Aachen University. The park has a long history of activities, but has been recently renovated in 2012, thanks to sizable investments from the triple helix stakeholders in the Province of Limburg (Netherlands). There are more than 100 companies on the site. Many of these firms are global leaders in their product market and currently employ 6 000 people. The Chemelot Innovation and Learning Laboratories (CHILL) offer an “open laboratory” where students as well as start-up firms have opportunities to do research, as well as linking up with other companies at the campus. In collaboration, Maastricht University and RWTH Aachen have established a new institute in bio-based materials. Maastricht University and Eindhoven University of Technology, together with the firm DSM, are currently considering establishing the Chemelot Institute for Science and Technology, which will focus research on bio-based and biomedical materials. The goal of the campus is accelerated business growth through a unique chemistry and materials community. The target is to grow by 1 000 FTE in R&D and R&D support activities, in addition to the 1 100 in 2012, and increase the number of students by 500 (intermediate and higher vocational level and university level). To accomplish this, the triple helix partners have committed themselves to a joint investment of EUR 35 million in business development over ten years. In addition, there will be EUR 155 million invested in research infrastructure, and to support this growth, venture capital of EUR 50 million has been raised.

Sources: Nauwelaers, C., K. Maguire and G. Ajmone Marsan (2013), “The case of the Top Technology Region/Eindhoven-Leuven-Aachen Triangle (TTR-ELAt) - Regions and Innovation: Collaborating Across Borders”, OECD Regional Development Working Papers, No. 2013/22, OECD Publishing, Paris, TTR-ELAt (2013), “Background report to OECD study: Cross-border regional innovation policies, TTR-ELAt”, March.

Clusters or networks initiatives are common to many cross-border efforts

Table 3.12. Clusters or network initiatives: Benefits and barriers

Benefits and barriers



  • - offers a framework for targeting many cross-border instruments
  • - greater visibility of the cross-border area (due to greater critical mass)
  • - greater knowledge of cross-border innovation actors
  • - creation of firm networks throughout the cross-border area Barriers:
  • - different levels of innovation development on different sides of the border
  • - different national regulations in specific sectors (i.e. energy, health and medical technologies and devices, etc.)
  • - eligibility constraints for funding recipients in different countries
  • - imbalanced engagement of the private or public sector on different sides of the border
  • - Oresund cross-border clusters like Medicon Valley
  • - Top Technology Clusters in the TTR-ELAt
  • - Creative industry cluster MIDAS in Ireland-Northern Ireland
  • - Tourism cluster in Hedmark-Dalarna

Clusters and other firm networks often span national borders, and supporting them is a way for the cross-border area to build greater critical mass for global excellence in select fields. Cross-border clusters generally organise the same kinds of activities that traditional clusters and networks of firms do, but they do so on a cross-border basis. The drivers for the creation of cross-border clusters are typically critical mass, external visibility and branding. Cluster associations tend to be successful when there is a clear engagement of firms that recognise the benefits of the cross-border collaboration. Other important success factors are true complementarities among cross-border actors and a balance in terms of the level of innovation development on both sides, or it not strong supplier linkages. It has been observed that cross-border clusters in highly nationally regulated sectors (like health sciences or energy) may face additional barriers in crossborder co-operation.6 Cross-border clusters may vary in terms of sectors, international visibility and size. In some cases, cross-border clusters are driven by big companies active in more than one jurisdiction, thus facilitating cross-border networks. Philips in the TTR-ELAt, pharmaceutical firms in the Oresund and the winter sport company SkiStar in Hedmark and Dalarna have all played that role. Among the six case study regions, the most advanced examples of cross-border clusters can be found in the TTR-ELAt and the Oresund (Box 3.13). MIDAS in Ireland-Northern Ireland stands out for working with the creative industry (Box 3.14).

Box 3.13. Cross-border cluster initiatives: Examples from case studies

In the TTR-ELAt, the Top Technology Clusters (TTC) project aims to stimulate innovation-oriented co-operation of companies by creating cross-border, SME-based co-operation consortia in four fields of cross-border area strength: ICT, energy, advanced materials, life sciences. The EUR 5 million programme is led by AGIT (the Aachen Regional Development Agency) and run by 19 partners (regional development, innovation agencies, cluster organisations, universities) across the sub-regions of the TTR-ELAt. It uses three instruments with cross-border characteristics:

  • • networking events (socialising, B2B, brokerage) across the TTR-ELAt area
  • • business development support managers and activities
  • • innovation vouchers for studying the feasibility of joint cross-border innovation projects: free research advice from a knowledge provider within the Greater Euregio Meuse-Rhine area up to an amount of EUR 5 000 to stimulate cross-border SME- based co-operation consortia.

In addition to the TTC, the TTR-ELAt hosts strong business networks throughout the crossborder area in high-tech systems, especially in the automotive sub-field (Flanders Drive, Automotive NL, car e.V.) and ICT (dSp Valley VZW, Stichting DSP Valley, REGINA e.V.). The broad life science area, with its sub-fields of medical imaging, bio-monitoring and biocontrol, e-health, bio-electronics, drug development, cardiovascular diseases, nutrition and health, is also subject to many cross-border industry-science co-operations as well as joint research and education programmes (Executive Master in medical imagery Julich-Maastricht, Biomaterials Research Centre, etc.). A relatively new domain to be further explored is the field of energy (e.g. the Energy Hills Network, and Solliance).

Box 3.13. Cross-border cluster initiatives: Examples from case studies (cont.)

In the Oresund, cross-border clusters have been promoted, but with varying degrees of longevity and success. The most well-known is the Medicon Valley, one of Europe’s strongest life science clusters with a high number of life science companies and research institutions located within a limited geographical area. The cluster association is called the Medicon Valley Alliance (MVA) and was created with the aim to promote a coherent Swedish-Danish strategy for the life sciences across the Oresund. Members are equally distributed over Denmark and Sweden; however, the Danish members include most of the largest companies in the region, accounting for about 70% of the total income from membership fees. The organisation is committed to raising the international recognition of the Medicon Valley with the aim of attracting labour, investments and partners. However, some of the barriers to more effective cross-border elements include: the closing of AstraZeneca in Southern Sweden, difficulty engaging firms with universities, and the public healthcare sector on both sides, due to barriers in regulation and legislations. Other barriers include a lack of strong political commitment in the cross-border co-operation dimension and the absence of a clear, long-term strategy for the cluster with precise tangible goals, to be measured and evaluated. Oresund IT, focusing on the ICT sector, was active in international branding, match-making events and fundraising. At the end of a public financing cycle, the cluster was only continued on the Swedish side under the branding Cluster 55o The Oresund Food Cluster gathers both large companies and SMEs and is one of the biggest European food clusters in terms of employment (more than 184 000 people across Sweden and Denmark, albeit on the Danish side most are not in the Oresund area but rather in other regions of Denmark). Energi Oresund, a cross-border strategic energy planning initiative between Danish and Swedish municipalities, energy companies and universities, focuses on sustainable economic growth and development, and aims to make the Oresund the first carbon neutral region in Europe. Opportunities to link cross-border the respective clean-tech clusters on each side is under consideration.

The cross-border region of Hedmark-Dalarna (Norway, Sweden) has a concentration of actors in the mountain tourism sector. SkiStar, a big Scandinavian company in the field of winter sports, has played a leading role in the development of the cross-border cluster. Business associations on both sides are exploring possibilities to advertise and sell cross-border tourism holidays and to brand the destination internationally. Given the differences in salaries (higher in Norway than in Sweden), there are flows of cross-border workers, albeit limited by distance and infrastructure barriers.

Sources: Nauwelaers, C., K. Maguire and G. Ajmone Marsan (2013), “The case of the Top Technology Region/Eindhoven-Leuven-Aachen Triangle (TTR-ELAt) - Regions and Innovation: Collaborating Across Borders”, OECD Regional Development Working Papers, No. 2013/22, OECD Publishing, Paris,; Nauwelaers, C., K. Maguire and G. Ajmone Marsan (2013), “The case of Hedmark-Dalarna (Norway-Sweden) - Regions and Innovation: Collaborating Across Borders”, OECD Regional Development Working Papers, No. 2013/18, OECD Publishing, Paris,; Nauwelaers, C., K. Maguire and G. Ajmone Marsan (2013e), “The case of Oresund (Denmark-Sweden) - Regions and Innovation: Collaborating Across Borders”, OECD Regional Development Working Papers, No. 2013/21, OECD Publishing, Paris,

Box 3.14. The MIDAS project: Cross-border cluster of creative industries in Ireland-Northern Ireland (United Kingdom)

The MIDAS project is a 2004-06 Interreg project with the aim to increase opportunities for technology transfer, innovation and new product development for SMEs in creative and digital media industries, in the eastern part of the eligible cross-border area of Ireland-Northern Ireland (UK). The budget for the project was EUR 2.3 million, funded mainly by Interreg (75%) and co-funded by the International Fund for Ireland and private sector organisations (25%). The lead partner of the project was the Dundalk Institute of Technology in Ireland; partners were Ulster University, the East Border local authority and private firms on both sides of the border. It was selected as a good practice in the ex post evaluation of the Interreg III A programme.

The project focused on five sectors: interactive leisure software (computer games), film and broadcast, design, animation, and music technology. The project funded the development of both “hard” physical infrastructure - a Bright Room High Definition Post Production Facility at the Dundalk Technology Institute - and “soft” support activities - the identification of existing market sectors and new opportunities and guidance to SMEs in the development of their company strategies. The project deployed enterprise development and co-operation promotion activities (R&D support, technology transfer, business support, sales and marketing activities, workshops, cross-border and international trade events) for companies on both sides of the border.

Project results included: development of 14 new products, the creation of 55 new and mainly high-skilled jobs, and an average 35% increase in export sales for participating SMEs. The project continues after the public funding period: Midas MultiMedia Limited Ltd. has been created by eight of the SMEs that participated in the project. It operates as a shared services organisation or umbrella body that brings all members together and helps enter into joint bids. By 2009, it had secured a number of contracts from large and small public and private organisations (e.g. BBC, Microsoft, Tourism Ireland, RTE, and Bandbridge District Council). The project promoted lasting co-operation practices both among firms and academic institutions on both sides of the border.

Source: Panteia and Partners (2008), Ex-Post Evaluation - Interreg III 2000-2006 - PROGRAMME: INTERREG IIIA Ireland-Northern Ireland, report to the European Commission.

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